Effectology, Vol. 2: Dark Side of the Moon
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Posted: 15 June 2009 09:56 AM

http://www.ehx.com/blog/effectology-dark-side-of-the-moon

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Posted: 15 June 2009 10:03 AM | Link to this reply (#1)

Part 1

This Effectology clip was a lot of fun for me to record as I was able to emulate one of my favorite vintage synthesizers: the EMS Synthi AKS.

The EMS Synthi AKS is a portable modular analog synthesizer with a built-in keyboard/sequencer made by EMS in England starting in 1972. The EMS line of synthesizers was used by Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Stereolab, Yes, Aphex Twin, The Who, Todd Rundgren, and many more.

The picture below was taken during the actual recording of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon” album.  On the right side of the picture you can see David Gilmour setting up the EMS AKS Synthi for a recording.

The EMS synth has:
1. three oscillators
2. a noise generator
3. a ring modulator
4. a low pass filter (VCF)
5. an envelope generator
6. a spring reverb unit

Being way ahead of its time, the AKS also sported a mono 256-note digital sequencer to playback recorded phrases.

While this may seem like a tall order to emulate using just a guitar and floor pedals, you will find that almost all the components listed above already exist in various EHX effect pedals!

The crafty part is just putting the pedals together to produce the EMS Synth sound.

1. The EMS analog synthesizer starts with an oscillator to create the pitch.
That’s easy! We have our guitar string that functions the same way.  By adding distortion and filtering to our guitar we can create different “wave forms” just like an analog synthesizer.

2. For a noise generator, I cannot think of a better one than a Big Muff pedal on 10.  Think about it: if you stop playing, what you’ll hear is a wall of noise.  It is basically just what an analog synth does within its noise module.

3. The ring modulator function is a snap.  The EHX Frequency Analyzer pedal is a ring modulator and performs much like the ring-mod in the EMS Synth.

4. A low pass filter is found in many EHX pedals like the POG, POG2 ,HOG and the Microsynth. The Q-tron, Bass Balls and Bi-Filter are also low pass filters that respond to the way you play your guitar.  Technically speaking these are called a VCF or Voltage Controlled Filter.  (Your picking strength controls how the filter opens and closes. Think “Auto-Wa”.)

5. An envelope generator can be found in the EHX Microsynth, HOG, POG2 and for that matter even a simple volume pedal can do the trick.

In simple terms an envelope generator controls the how long it takes for you to hear your guitar after you pick the note.  It can also control how long the note you pick will sustain or how long it takes to fades away.

The envelope generator is an essential tool for making the guitar sound like other instruments.

6. Lastly the EMS spring reverb is also very easy to emulate as there are several EHX reverb pedals that produce not only the spring sound but a digital studio reverb as well.

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Posted: 15 June 2009 10:04 AM | Link to this reply (#2)

Part 2

THE RECORDING

To start my “On the Run” recording I needed a sequencer to play a repeated synth line over and over like the one heard on Pink Floyd track.

A great pedal for short loop recording is the Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai.
I recorded a short loop of a bass line using the Microsynth into the Hazarai. To make the riff sound even more like a digital sequencer I played the line at half the speed.  I then sped the riff back up using the Hazarai delay knob.
Below is the Microsynth bass setting and the effect chain.

Next I fed the Hazarai loop into the Frequency Analyzer and manually twisted the shift knob as the loop played over and over.  I recorded this into my computer on one track in Pro Tools recording software.

Speeding the Microsynth line up with the Hazarai puts the synth line an octave higher than recorded.  To bring the loop back down in pitch where it was recorded—but keeping the faster speed—I fed the Hazarai back through the MicroSynth using the Sub Octave slider.  This was recorded in Pro Tools on a separate track.

The helicopter sounds were a unique challenge.
I needed a white noise effect and found the Big Muff Pedal was perfect as a noise source.  Plugging a guitar cord into the Big Muff turns the unit on, but
having a cord connected to the input creates a lot of buzz which I did not want. I wanted just the hiss noise.

To solve this problem, use a dummy 1/4” phone plug to turn the Big Muff on without it actually being connected to anything.  You can get a 1/4” plug at any Radio Shack or music store.

All the knobs on the Big Muff were cranked to the max to produce a wall of noise. This was then feed into the Mirosynth and into a Pulsar pedal for a choppy square wave tremolo.

I manually moved the start frequency slider on the Microsynth to brighten and darken the chopper sound. The final pedal in this helicopter sound was the Hazarai set for a reverberant delay.

A second helicopter pass was done with the guitar connected to the Big Muff playing a low E note while dipping the vibrato arm slowly. This additional pass gave the sound the weight of a giant helicopter engine.

To capture the female voice as heard in the Pink Floyd track the Big Muff pedal saved the day again.

With such a high gain pedal, I was able to actually hold a portable AM radio speaker against guitar pickup and process the voice of a woman announcer.  The Hazarai pedal gave the sound a weird loudspeaker echo effect.

Each sound was recorded direct in to Pro Tools and mixed in stereo.  No guitar amps were used.  The guitar I used was a 1988 Ibanez floral JEM.
Below is a screen shot of this Pro Tools session.

I hope this clip gives you some new ideas about how to use these great effect pedals.  With such innovative musical tools at our finger tips, all that holds us back is our imagination

Thanks for listening!

Bill Ruppert

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Posted: 15 June 2009 10:52 AM | Link to this reply (#3)

Oh my!!! that’s incredible..

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Posted: 15 June 2009 11:02 AM | Link to this reply (#4)

that…..was….awesome!

excellent job bill, so thoroughly explained too!

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Posted: 15 June 2009 02:23 PM | Link to this reply (#5)

Bill your precision and creativity is pretty amazing. For the price of all these pedals you could just buy a synthesizer, but that’s no fun!

Music for grocery stores.

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Posted: 15 June 2009 02:36 PM | Link to this reply (#6)

Thanks nneekolas,
I want things to come from my guitar strings not a sample or triggering some other midi device!
On top of it all its pretty hard to feedback a synthesizer grin
The pedals just have a more spontaneous and organic feel to them.
Personally I feel more connected to the sound.
And you are right its a LOT more fun!!

Bill Ruppert

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Posted: 15 June 2009 03:15 PM | Link to this reply (#7)

very awesome

I’ve done on the run type stuff with my synth into my pedal board, but never thought of doing it with just guitar

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Posted: 16 June 2009 08:17 AM | Link to this reply (#8)

Thanks for sharing, Bill. The part where you discuss how you went about setting the whole thing up was very interesting. There’s so much to learn! smile

BTW:

jesica - 16 June 2009 10:07 AM

I want things to come from my guitar strings not a sample or triggering some other device!
sonnerie portable gratuite

Spam alert!

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Posted: 16 June 2009 09:50 AM | Link to this reply (#9)
cabomano - 16 June 2009 01:17 PM

Spam alert!

Thanks for noting that!

How interesting—they quote something from the thread, and then add a link—fwiw, the person/bot that did that was in Vietnam. I deleted the account. Sigh.

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Posted: 16 June 2009 02:23 PM | Link to this reply (#10)

I didn’t realize that you weren’t playing the original track until it ended…

SIMPLY INCREDIBLE!

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Posted: 29 November 2009 08:42 AM | Link to this reply (#11)

I’m surprised that NO ONE mentioned the EMS/Electro-Harmonix connection: David Cockerell.  Not only did he design the EMS VCS3 (which is called a Synthi when crammed into a suitcase), he then came to Electro-Harmonix and created the original Small Stone, Electric Mistress, Micro Synthesizer, as well as the Stereo Electric Mistress, Stereo Memory Man, 2880, and many more I’m sure.  I would love to see Electro-Harmonix release something along the lines of the EMS Synthi HiFli.
(Granted, some of this info may be a little off, but I’m surprised there isn’t a website about his work, when there are websites devoted to white supremacists and people that dress up like stuffed animals and have sex.)

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Posted: 29 November 2009 02:33 PM | Link to this reply (#12)
friedjesseradio - 29 November 2009 08:19 PM

wow wee mr zippyzipgun, interesting. and welcome to the ehx forum

Thank you, thank you! 

Everytime I see a HiFli online, or watch Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii (there’s a scene where Gilmour’s fiddling with one in the studio, and it puts a big grin on his face), the wheels in my brain start spinning out of control…it had so many functions, you’d have to piece together about ten EHX pedals to get the same functions, and you’d still only have about half of the controls.  The phaser alone was pretty elaborate.

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Posted: 29 November 2009 02:52 PM | Link to this reply (#13)

I had a similar experience seeing 2001: A Space Oddyssey for the first time…I was 7 or 8, fell asleep while the apes were touching that pole, woke up while the lady was walking upside-down in the space station.  The rest is a blur.

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Posted: 06 September 2012 12:38 PM | Link to this reply (#14)

I finally check out this blog. AMAZING!! <3

Life is not a rehearsal

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